Hi everyone, and continuing the First Drafts series I am delighted to introduce fellow Liverpool writer S. E. Moorhead. S. E. Moorhead’s novel, Witness X, is out next year.
She was kind enough to join me for a quick chat about her writing process, from idea generation to first draft.
Over to you Sarah…
1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it?
Usually, I have an idea in my head for about two years before I get the chance to really think it through and write it down. I let it brew in the teapot of my mind and give my brain a chance to come up with its own ideas without forcing them – which can be very interesting! However, at some point, I need to sit down and organise and structure all the thoughts, which takes discipline and effort.
My ideas usually start with a ‘what if…?’
So Witness X started with the idea ‘What if it was possible to see the crime directly from a witness’s brain?’
2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before?
The first two books I wrote, I just splurged all the ideas down and let the story develop as I wrote. I thought this was a good idea because I let my creative side take over.However, this made editing really difficult because I hadn’t taken the time to really think through the plotting and the story arc. Now that I have more experience, I plot the story first so that I haven’t launched off into a storyline that is going to be chaotic and will need a lot of work to bring it back to its arc. Then, I let the creative process take over. I think it is a balancing act between creativity and organisation.
3) What is your research process, if you have one?
I tend to write about things that I am interested in and so I have already read books or watched documentaries in the past, so I have a stock of information.
But then when I need to fine tune my research, I love to speak to the experts; my brother, Justin, is a lecturer in Criminal Justice and an ex-probation officer, my other brother, Damian, worked as a forensic scientist for a while and knows a great deal about crime. One of my cousins, Julia, is a neurologist and my other cousin, Neti, is a psychologist, so I do tend to pick their brains.
I also follow a lot of clever people on Twitter who are kind enough to answer my questions, and I read up and use the internet.
I think the important thing is with research not to get lost down the rabbit hole of Google, but to write briefly in your ms what you want to say and then really focus in your research so that you can be as efficient as possible or else writing time is totally eaten up with research.
4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?
As I say, I usually have an idea in my head for two years before I start writing, and so the thinking process takes time. I am a writer not only when the words are flowing, but when I am walking in the woods and thinking, daydreaming over coffee, scribbling ideas down on a mind map and even fumbling through a million little scraps of paper on which I have collected ideas.
However, once I sit down and plan on screen, then I’m in business and it seems to be an ongoing process for the next year when I sculpt my ideas into something that hopefully makes sense as a novel.
5) How does the draft form on the screen?
I tend to write parts here and there and then piece them together like a patchwork quilt, but I have just discovered Scrivener and this is making the whole process so much easier because all my notes and ideas are organised and easily accessible and I can build them up or use them as I go along. It’s like having all your notes, research and manuscript on the desk in front of you, but its all organised and in digital form.
6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?
I have a wonderful old writing desk with an interesting history, which you may want to see and read about here!
It’s in the front bay window of my house and I sit looking out as the world goes by daydreaming when I should be writing!
Thanks for visiting the blog, Sarah. Finding out about your idea generation to first draft has been fascinating.
S.E. Moorhead was born in Liverpool of Anglo-Irish parents. She has told stories since childhood and uses writing as bubblegum for her over-active brain; to keep it out of trouble.
Driven by her fascination with meaning, motivation and mystery, she studied Theology at university.
Over the last twenty years, apart from teaching in secondary school, S.E.Moorhead has raised two sons, attained a black belt in kickboxing, worked as a chaplain and youthworker and written articles for newspapers and magazines about her work in education and religion.
She is married to Séan and still lives in her beloved hometown.